‘I had an abortion and I thank God I was able to,’ says MLA, pointedly asking Jason Kenney: ‘Pro-choice or not?’

Posted on July 08, 2016, 2:28 am
7 mins

PHOTOS: St. Albert MLA Marie Renaud. Below: A young Jason Kenney in a 1990 TV interview, Archbishop Emeritus John R. Quinn of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and British MP George Galloway.

Marie Renaud, the New Democrat MLA for St. Albert, is a brave and forthright woman.

Yesterday she named the elephant in the room about the candidacy of Jason Kenney for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta, to wit: Where he stands, today, on the right of women to reproductive choice.

KENNEYCLIPShe did it in a way that would take real courage in any part of Alberta, by publicly sharing her own story in a few short words, in the spirit of the age of Twitter.

She started by Tweeting an important question about Mr. Kenney that many of us commentators have been too cautious to ask: “Just one question for Mr. Kenney, Pro-choice or not?”

This is an important question for Mr. Kenney in particular, because he is on record as being a strong opponent of women’s right to access abortion services.

Then Ms. Renaud made the statement that demonstrated her courage, made this a news story and explained why she is not just trying to score a cheap political point against an opponent her party would be justified to be concerned about. “I had an abortion and I thank God I was able to,” she said in a second Tweet. “Who wants to change that?”

As Mr. Kenney’s supporters will no doubt shout from the rafters, his unequivocal statements about women’s reproductive rights were made a long time ago and he hasn’t said much about the divisive subject for ages. Mr. Kenney himself has made this point: “In my 20 years in Parliament I haven’t given a speech about this, let alone proposed a motion or a bill.”

QuinnBut Mr. Kenney raised it, even if he did so a long time ago. He owns it as a result.

Women are entitled to be concerned about what he thinks – and so are men who are partners and fathers of women who share the conviction that women’s right to reproductive freedom must not be infringed by legislation or by stealth. In other words, all voters need to know the answer to Ms. Renaud’s question.

And Mr. Kenney has a responsibility to provide that answer as he campaigns to take over a political party that has generally supported reproductive rights, reluctantly at times and over dissenting voices, but nevertheless reasonably consistently in recent years.

What are Mr. Kenney’s views? Well, that’s the point, we don’t really know.

We certainly know what they used to be, however.

As a student at the Jesuit-run University of San Francisco, Mr. Kenney fought with the school’s administration over its policy of permitting students to speak up in favour of abortion rights on campus.

Galloway“Conservative students led by Jason Kenney, a philosophy undergraduate and chairman of the student court, had argued that abortion rights lobbying on campus creates ‘an educational atmosphere inconsistent with the Catholic faith’,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported in May 1990.

According to what appears to be part of a local TV news story from an unidentified station saved on Youtube, the narrator says 300 students were persuaded by Mr. Kenney’s group to sign a petition demanding the university stop claiming to be a Catholic institution.

A young Mr. Kenney is shown in the clip stating that “the pro-choice group which is politically activating (sic) to legalize abortion on demand on this campus, by using campus facilities, is essentially destroying the mission and the purpose of the university.”

A university spokesperson, identified as Rev. John Clark, responded: “It is not a conflict with the Catholic faith for people to feely express their opinions and beliefs, even on a Catholic campus.”

Archbishop John R. Quinn of the Archdiocese of San Francisco took the young Mr. Kenney’s efforts seriously enough to write him a personal letter defending the university’s commitment to free speech in the context of its Catholic identity. Most Rev. Quinn, now 87, remains Archbishop Emeritus of the archdiocese.

As noted, this was a long time ago.

But while it is true there is little evidence of Mr. Kenney subsequently pushing these views, there is equally not much that he has changed them. Indeed, as the CBC’s report on Ms. Renaud’s Tweets pointed out, in 2012 when he was a member of cabinet, Mr. Kenney defied the stated wishes of prime minister Stephen Harper and “supported a motion to set up a parliamentary committee to study when life begins.” At the time, critics said the motion, which was defeated, was being used as an excuse to reopen the debate on abortion in Canada.

Likewise, Mr. Kenney’s desire to suppress the free speech rights of people he disagrees with seem not to have changed much – just ask former British MP George Galloway!

So the question remains: what does Mr. Kenney think about this issue now.

He is, after all, ultimately campaigning for a job that would allow him to influence the policies of Alberta’s health system in the strongest and most direct ways possible.

Albertans deserve a straight answer.

I shudder to think of the abuse Ms. Renaud will get from certain members of the public for raising this question, not to mention the pressure she may come under from her own caucus to keep her lips zipped on this difficult topic.

She has done us all a favour by bluntly asking what many of us were wondering.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

18 Comments to: ‘I had an abortion and I thank God I was able to,’ says MLA, pointedly asking Jason Kenney: ‘Pro-choice or not?’

  1. Maria

    July 8th, 2016

    getting a straight answer from a Conservative ? That’s never going to happen. Cudos to Ms. Renaud for speaking up on this important topic.

    Reply
  2. Gail

    July 8th, 2016

    I’m so glad Ms. Renaud did this. It’s something that needs discussed more bluntly. The backsliding on abortion rights in this country is very sad and I’m glad to see people like Kenney being asked directly though I have little confidence in a direct answer.

    Reply
    • Sam Gunsch

      July 12th, 2016

      Gail,
      You’re right not to expect a direct answer.
      It seems, that to get a conservative leadership position, he needs to leave his record as it is.

      Political math in conservative campaigns… one explanation here:

      http://www.nationalpost.com/m/wp/blog.html?b=news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/john-ivison-kenney-defies-pm-over-abortion-motion-as-leadership-jockeying-begins

      excerpt: ‘As one Conservative MP said, anyone who wants to become leader has to have strong support in pro-life circles. “Among our motivated support base, pro-life support is very high and they choose leaders. Aspiring leaders have virtually no chance, if they are seen as pro-abortion,” he said.

      That Mr. Woodworth’s motion was supported by 87 Conservative MPs, from a caucus of 163, suggests that Mr. Kenney is the man to beat when the starter’s pistol sounds.

      Basic value questions are a pretty accurate predictor of voting intentions. In the United States, one study found that attitudes toward sex before marriage, religion, pornography and homosexuality dictated whether voters opted for Bill Clinton or Bob Dole.

      There can be no doubts that Mr. Kenney has raised his standard as the pro-life candidate. At least that was his position in 1990, when a CNN news clip billed him as an “anti-abortion activist.” ‘

      Reply
    • Sam Gunsch

      July 12th, 2016

      And while it’s fair political ball to push him to answer…there’s also this valid campaign reality as to why Kenney will stick with his line:

      Charles Adler @charlesadler

      Even people not as smart as #RachelNotley know that #JasonKenney isn’t going to bulldoze his own campaign by opining on abortion. #ableg
      4 retweets 6 likes

      Reply
  3. Jim

    July 8th, 2016

    Jason Kenney has a history of limiting the speech of others, C-43 comes to mind giving the minister the ability to block anyone from entering Canada based on “public policy considerations”.

    His most telling statement so far has been in response Jansen’s objections. Saying some people are resistant to change, isn’t being a conservative by definition being resistant to change?

    Reply
  4. Filostrato

    July 8th, 2016

    You are a brave woman, Ms. Renaud. Thank you for asking the question. No doubt the trolls are out in packs by now.

    So, Mr. Kenney??? (Crickets.)

    Kenney’s brief foray into higher education ended with his first year. I’m not even sure if he completed it. I’m sure that he thinks he’s “holier than the Pope” but he misjudged the battle when taking on a bunch of Jesuits. Those guys usually have at least two degrees, generally at the postgraduate or doctorate level. They are not ordained until they are thirty or so, giving them plenty of time to decide if that is really what they want to do. Did they turn Jason down as a candidate? Interested people want to know.

    Where do some completely clueless people get the idea that they can tell everyone else what to do? You don’t want an abortion, Jason? Fine, don’t have one. Now – mind your own business.

    Reply
    • tom in Ontario

      July 8th, 2016

      Maybe at USF he spent too much time protesting and doing his Pillsbury Doughboy act to attend class.

      Reply
  5. tom in Ontario

    July 8th, 2016

    A sensitive topic well analyzed.

    Reply
  6. Kang the barbarian

    July 8th, 2016

    As a Conservative, does Kenny also subscribe to the notion that divorcees who remarry should live as “brother and sisiter” as one of his co-religionists suggests in this report?
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/divorced-couples-who-remarry-should-live-like-brother-and-sister-says-leading-us-archbishop-a7124681.html

    Some wag said Kenny was ideal for leading the Conservatives into the 20th century – should have been the 15th century. Wait! Isn’t that the Wildrose?

    Look for PC meetings to be swamped with Stockyard Day style believers who believe they can repeal basic laws of chemistry and raise the price of oil.

    Reply
    • jerrymacgp

      July 8th, 2016

      “…Some wag said Kenny was ideal for leading the Conservatives into the 20th century…” Actually, that “wag” was Deputy Premier & Minister of Health Sarah Hoffman. I thought it was the best comment so far on Mr Kenney’s announcement.

      Reply
      • Kang the barbarian

        July 9th, 2016

        Thank you for reminding me it was the intelligent and competent Ms. Hoffman I was quoting – I take “wag” to mean someone with an incisive wit and it was kindly meant in this context.

        As you note, her comment was excellent although I found it a bit subtle for retail politics.

        Reply
  7. Val Jobson

    July 8th, 2016

    She’s gotten some nasty replies, including from the creeps at Rebel Media and their execrable followers. I don’t know how many, since I’ve already blocked many of their nastiest fans.

    Reply
  8. Albertan

    July 8th, 2016

    Mr. Kenney was also questioned yesterday on CBC’s Power & Politics by Rosie Barton re: climate change. (Trust her eh?!) Mr. Kenney really did fumble around awkwardly with his answer. As was said by a member of panel, Mr. Kenney will not be able to get away with not addressing the climate change issue with regard to Alberta/Canada, nor the social issues of the day.
    The panel also stated that Premier Rachel Notley has handled the issue of climate change very well, they felt, the best in the world, and eloquently. Mr. Kenney also seems to not wish to mention Premier Notley by name, instead using Stephen Harper’s old words re: the AB NDP re: disastrous. What was disastrous was how the AB Conservatives drove AB into the ground over 40 some years.

    Reply
  9. Athabascan

    July 8th, 2016

    It’s my understanding that Kenney never graduated from the University of San Francisco. In other words, he dropped out.

    In point of fact, he actually does not hold any actual undergraduate degree from any university.

    I am not sure that was clear in your article.

    Reply
  10. Expat Albertan

    July 8th, 2016

    Correct me if I’m wrong (I’ve been away from Alberta for a while) but there hasn’t been a true social conservative in power since Ernest Manning. Ostensibly, all of the PC premiers since him have been, if not pro-choice, at least not vocally anti-abortion – and it seems to me that is what Albertans want. Kenny would be a major punch in the gut even to many Alberta conservatives.

    Reply
  11. July 9th, 2016

    Actually, the views of a provincial candidate on abortion are irrelevant; as a matter of federal jurisdiction, an Alberta MLA or premier can do nothing about it. Contrary to Mr Climehaga’s suggestion here, the responsibility for running the health system does not allow a provincial government either to ban abortion or to defund it. Nova Scotia tried to do the former and BC tried to do the latter; both lost in court.

    http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/1053/index.do

    http://www.canlii.org/en/bc/bcsc/doc/1988/1988canlii182/1988canlii182.html

    Reply
    • Rocky Portwell

      July 10th, 2016

      Patent nonsense. While the court cases are encouraging, there are a thousand and one ways the health care system, which delivers health services, can be used to obstruct and delay access to those services. In addition, senior provincial politicians have access to their federal counterparts that ordinary citizens do not enjoy. The views of a provincial candidate on abortion are highly relevant, to those who believe in abortion on demand just as they are to those who will do anything, including break the law, to obstruct women’s access to abortions. Count on it, if Kenney becomes premier of Alberta, access to abortions for Alberta women will be restricted.

      Reply
  12. Michelle

    July 20th, 2016

    If you found the CNN video troubling, definitely watch this speech by Kenney from 2015 on “The Christian concept of martyrdom” – https://youtu.be/vT1XVT3GCFo

    Reply

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